And so it was to Sunday, with no less than 30 club members entered in the sprint and standard distances races at the Epic Events Southport Triathlon, also incorporating the Triathlon England National Championships, while others preferred to travel to either Worcester or Nottingham for alternative racing ventures. On the Irish Sea coast the racing began at 7:30am for the standard distance races including a two-lap, 1500m swim in the Marine Lake, two 20km laps of the coast road and two 5k laps of a 5k run course including some portions of the route used at last month’s Splashworld event (the sprint course being one lap each of the above). Mark Glynn and Eddie Hirst were always likely to be fighting it out for first club member home and so it proved. Mark got an advantage of just over half a minute on the swim but Eddie chipped away and arrived at the end of the bike course slightly ahead. However, on this occasion Mark’s rather more sparse race schedule in the build-up to Southport came up trumps over Eddie’s fixture list which looked more like Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final and his fresher legs enabled him to take 18th overall in a time of 2:08:15, while also taking third in the M50-54 category. Eddie meanwhile was just edged out of a top-30 placing overall but still got in the top ten in his category, his experience with hanging in there paying dividends where others would have faded out of contention. Behind him, one might have expected a close battle between Andrew McGlone, Paul Austin and Michael Forber for the “St Helens Tri Podium” but amazingly Andrew pulled off the swim of his life and created a gap never to be bridged; while Paul enjoyed a superior bike time and Michael came up with his customary fast 10k to finish neither could reel him in and his 2:21:06 placed him 125th overall around three and a half minutes clear of Paul and a further 90 seconds clear of Michael. A gap of a few minutes followed while others rolled in, but there were plenty more interesting stories, including that of Claire Murphy who only eight days removed from ironman 70.3 Mallorca put in yet another memorable performance as her sub-28 swim and much improved pace on the bike and run stages enabled her to take a top-10 finish in her category and a final time of 2:38:17. Ian Wright only joined the club at the beginning of the triathlon year (April 1st) but he has certainly made quite an impression already particularly with his running prowess, and he gave Alan McKeegan a real run for his money as he sought to close the gap on the bike and run before Alan eventually finished 45 seconds to the good. Still the Saints came rolling home, but the next huge story of the day was about to unfold. Sarah Taktak has excelled for a long time at the Wednesday and Friday swim sessions held at Edge Hill Sport, but here she made a huge improvement on the bike, particularly in view of her preparation for Ironman UK, and with the number 1 on her race bib she came good on exactly that as she swept to victory in the F20 division completing the course in 2:52:26, her dad Azzam also continuing his good form after the spring 10k as he finished only a few minutes behind. One person Azzam overtook on the bike was Bethany Forber, who would produce the next great cheer of the day as she followed up her customary speedy swim with a sub-90 minute time on the bike and rounded it off with a 54:09 run to take third in the F20-24 category, behind only two team GB triathletes! The family photos, complete with mum Christine who was less than three minutes behind, were one of the highlights of the day. Behind Christine five more club members would yet finish, with perhaps the biggest cheer in order for Paul Hazlehurst who has a rather unusual background to triathlon having previously excelled in power sports such as boxing. Luckily no punches were thrown in the lake but he did a creditable sub-33 minute swim to exit the water not far behind Bethany and his strong legs propelled him round the bike course in a little over 90 minutes. Although not quite able to hold such a rapid pace on the run he deserved a cheer equal to that of those who won prizes as his diligent approach to his training was rewarded with a finish time of 3:25:19; indeed if a coaches’ award was to presented at midseason for progress during the sessions it would be hard to think of a more deserving recipient.
The sprint distance race saw five club members take on the single-lap versions of each discipline. Richard Seville has long been one of the few “win at everything” club members and is perhaps best remembered for his heroics at last year’s Ironman Austria, but here he not only led the club home, he signed off with a blistering 18:17 run and won his age category! And he wasn’t the only sprint distance racer to mount the podium as Myka Heard returned from a long running injury to post an incredible sub-13 minute swim and still have enough in her on the bike and run to win her division too. Coming up on the rails fast at the end, but not quick enough to overhaul Myka, was Ian Orford whose rise to multisport prominence really began during the winter club duathlon season. Here, he began with a good strong swim and while not able to match Richard or Myka on the bike he would follow Richard’s lead in saving the best until last, a 19:06 5k elevating him to within touching distance of the top 50. Also racing the sprint distance were Tony Waine and Robert Saile. Tony was two minutes behind Robert upon leaving the water but put in a solid shift on the bike to nibble away at the deficit, and eventually his superior running speed lifted him past his teammate as the pair finished 106th and 132nd respectively. All in all a terrific morning of racing on the west coast, and the question now was, could the Outlaw half entrants repeat the dose in Nottingham?
Four club members made the trip to the East Midlands for this well-regarded half Ironman at the home of Robin Hood. All four members have been with the club for many years and as such had plenty of experience going into the race, but here Gary Birch stole the limelight as a sub-45 minute swim had him well up the field early doors and a sub-2:45 time for the 56 miles on the bike gave him a superb platform to build on for the run, which he duly did by completing the 13.1 miles in a little over two hours to eventually finish 626th in a time of 5:46:20. Gary Davies was marginally ahead as they got out of the water and extended his lead in the early goings, but eventually Gary Birch overhauled him during the bike course. Nevertheless, a two and a half hour 13.1 miler to finish meant that Gary Davies still got home in just over six and a half hours, very close to making the top 1000. If ever there was an example of “don’t give up”, Debra Rayment would be it. With her season seemingly over after a mountain bike accident in March, she would have been forgiven for pulling out of the Outlaw Half but instead she proved the doubters wrong with a gritty performance to finish in under 7:15. Caroline Bones rounded out the multisport proceedings for the week as she got home in a time of 7:51:38 but there was one more story on the other side of the Midlands as Lee Stinch tackled the Worcester Half Marathon in the Malvern Hills. On a tough, technical course a PB was never very likely but Lee, seemingly fresh from excelling at the club track session on the Friday night, put in an inspired display to complete the race in 1:38:24, good enough to finish in the top 50 overall and round off a thrilling day of racing where the star turns came from Richard and Myka in the Southport Sprint, Mark Glynn, Sarah Taktak and Bethany Forber in the standard race and Gary Birch in Nottingham. Next week sees the return of Go Tri to St Helens while Crazy Legs Events host an ETU qualification race at the Darley Moor Duathlon, comprising a two-lap run, 8 laps on the bike and a final run lap to finish on a blindingly fast race track near Ashbourne. Closer to home, the Liverpool Rock n’ Roll races, namely the 5k, half marathon and full marathon should provide plenty of cheer for those making the short trip to the home of the Beatles to either participate or offer their support.
(Full results from Southport can be found at https://resultsbase.net/event/4940/results )